• 29 Aug 2009 /  Articles

    It’s 1st birthday party time for jameswaites.com  !!!!

    Partying

    Partying @ my place this weekend


    We debuted 2 September 2009. I have since put up around 150 posts – from snail mail to air express, ranging in import from the silly and deeply shallow to the culture shifting and gloriously profound (yeah right). The site got started because I couldn’t get feature stories up in the print media any more. Two good ones got turned down almost back to back this time last year: Indeed, as is their discourteous way these days, most editors did not even bother to rsvp with even the simplest ‘no thanks’. One was a chance to cover the annual sex workers (Scarlet Alliance) conference, which was being held in Kalgoorlie last year. The other was the making of a documentary film based on Big hART’s Ngapartji Ngapartji project, on location in a town called Ernabella, 500ks south-west of Alice Springs. I so wanted to go on that trip I ended up inventing my own publishing outlet – jameswaites.com. The rest is hysterical.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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  • 02 May 2009 /  Other

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    And in the end there was pizza!

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    All Photos by Brett Monaghan

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  • 23 Apr 2009 /  Other
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    Cast & Crew - Glenorchy, Greater Hobart: Photo Brett Monaghan

    For the season at Latrobe, I relocated from the cosy guest house of Neal and Pam Rodwell to the luxury guest wing of the home of Stephanie Finn, my collaborator on ‘Everyone’s a Critic’, her husband, Nick Kent, their two daughters Olivia and Michaela, and their cats, Tilly and Minka. They live at a coastal hamlet, called Penguin, halfway between Wynyard and Latrobe.

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    The Biggest Fairy Penguin in the World

    Nick grew up here and after many years on the mainland, and some success, the family has relocated here. When Nick is home he likes to cook – so here I was enjoying a different version of Tasmanian domestic 5-star hospitality. And certainly not complaining.

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    The Astor Hotel - Hobart: "You can check out any time but never leave..." The Eagles

    It was with Stephanie and a car full of gear that we travelled south through the Tasmanian heartland and into Hobart. We were the first from the crew to arrive at what is one of the most delightful hotels I have encountered in my centuries of global travel. It is called The Astor Private Hotel: “Not uptown, not downtown, but in town.” And it is run by a most delightful woman called Tildy. Big hART had the entire hotel to itself, and Tildy was amazingly tolerant of the mess we left each night in the sitting room – after coming home from tech runs and performances and staying up late as travelling theatre folk tend to do. It was like a kind of Alice in Wonderland upside version of Faulty Towers where only good things happened and everything worked.

    The Ten Days On The Island festival was now in full swing, and unfortunately – as happens in festivals – This Is Living had been relegated to a venue quite unsuited to its character. The Derwent Entertainment Centre (DEC) in Glenorchy, officially Greater Hobart.

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    Me and the enchanting Ms Tildy: Photo Brett Monaghan

    The same ‘community’ work had been undertaken in the months prior to our arrival, and so we had a new group of seniors and a new group of young people. This time the young people were not ‘skater dudes’ so much as half of Rae Dunium’s drama studies students from years 9/10 at nearby Rosetta High. The other half formed one of my ‘Everyone’s a Critic’ classes. So the students were equally divided between those ‘in’ the show, and those ‘thinking and writing’ about it.

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    Brett Monaghan arrives to join tour: Photo Nicholas Higgins

    My time in Hobart was particularly hectic. I ran a second ‘Everyone’s a Critic’ class at Claremont High, where one of the themes of the play took on a special relevance: in the form of  ‘youngies v oldies’ down in the local village shopping square. Tensions were running high as ‘oldies’ were seeking to ban the ‘youngies’ entirely from the precinct. So along with the general discussion about the ‘nature of theatre’, easy stuff, the notion of how the ‘young people’ might strategically and pro-actively move the community debate forward was actively discussed. The last I heard, the class’s self-devised production this year was possibly going to take this subject as its theme. Its own version of This is Living meets High School Musical! So again you get an idea in how Big hART works – often in the most unexpected ways.

    Derwent Entertainment Centre (the DEC)

    Derwent Entertainment Centre (the DEC)

    My time was also taken up with a more high-powered festival project called ‘Critical Acclaim’ which brought together a group of writers who wanted to look seriously at the art and craft of reviewing. They were a most delightful group of people, their schedule beyond hectic – but I greatly enjoyed my two days with them. That project involved a number of ‘facilitators’. I handed over to Ms Alison Croggon – mistress of the premiere Australian theatre blog-de-realm – theatrenotes. It was good to meet her at last in real space and time, after so many communications ‘on-line’. We shared a round table discussion at an oblong table with the class, and to the surprise of the students (and perhaps ourselves?) we pretty much agreed on everything each of us had to say about the duties and ups-and-downs of being a critic.

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    Bumping-in at to the DEC: Photo Brett Monaghan

    While I was away with these pixies, the show was being bumped into the DEC, which – so far as interior décor goes – has all the charm of a large Centrelink office. This is likely to be a meaningless visual reference to most of my readers – having only known success -  but for me the vast dispiriting spaces and plastic chairs, silent TV monitors, do-nothing security guards, etc, reeked redolent of recidivist years handing in fortnightly forms to bitter and begrudging….

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    Not exactly a community feel: Photo Brett Monaghan

    The production failed somewhat to connect with the urban Glenorchy community, and I am unsure if many of ‘global influence’ visiting the City of Hobart for the festival considered our production a priority. The vast space available to us was closed down with a ring of black curtains to more intimate proportions; and staff at the centre was thankfully fabulously helpful.

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    Stage manager Jessica Smithett is happy: Photo Brett Monaghan

    While the production had less ‘soul’ in Glenorchy, the wiz-bang technology available helped certain members of the crew – sound, lighting and AV in particular. There was no meaningful place for entertainment ‘outside’ the venue. But the stage depth did allow for massive half-pipe to be located, this time, on stage.

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    Sound guy Andrew Poppleton is very happy: Photo Brett Monaghan

    With fewer ‘skater dudes’ available in Glenorchy (as a matter of principle we did not raid down-town Hobart),  the Rosetta High students gave the youth component quite a new more ‘choreographed’ look. Interestingly there were more women this time among the ‘seniors’ component, and they were a particularly lively and enthusiastic mob. So while the show may not have made its mark on the broader Glenorchy community, it was a wild success for those from this community who had chosen to get involved.

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    The Glenorchy Seniors: Photo Brett Monaghan

    Most of the Seniors even stayed back for the arduous bump out, as did the bulk of the kids. Other changes made included bringing the community stall indoors into the foyer, along with a more diminished version of the skater ‘show and tell’. Onstage, the skater component was huge and visually magnificent, as lighting changes allowed for huge shadows of the youth ‘moments’ to be flung up against the theatre’s huge back wall.

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    Telen Rodwell skating under lamps: Photo Brett Monaghan

    The brutality of the Glenorchy environment exposed some of the production’s less obvious innate weaknesses, which Scott had the courage to confront. Dramatically, he decided to remove the interval break. This improved the rhythm of the piece and narrative flow. Astutely, Scott also moved a tiny bit of amusing dialogue up to the very top of the opening scene. In thus grabbing a laugh first up, the whole drama unfolded through a more whimsical lens. And the show enjoyed more laughter from audiences at every performance there-after. Amazing how theatre works.

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    The half-pipe installed: Photo Brett Monaghan

    A highlight in advance of the first matinee was news that federal Arts Minister Peter Garrett wished to make an announcement to the Big hART mob. Typically Scott Rankin improvised a highly dramatic format. Ten minutes before the first performance came to a close, while the skaters we had were doing their ‘thang’ up back, the show was stalled and Garrett walked out onto the a stage into blinking bright lights surrounded by an ebullient gaggle of ‘today’s youth’. Television and print media were pre-prepared. Garrett gave a most engaging speech directed to the mostly high-school student audience about the value of participating in the arts of all forms, and honoured Big hART for its leadership in this field with a special ‘minimal strings attached’ funding of $450,000.

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    Peter Garrett handing out cash: Photo Brett Monaghan

    For Big hART, which has survived up to this time on the veritable ‘smell of an oil rag’, it was the climax of a series of financial rewards to have been awarded the company over previous weeks. One was Big hART being awarded the highly prestigious Group Award in the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards, a few days earlier, worth $70,000. Creative Director Scott Rankin dedicated the award to the ‘philanthropy of Bob Targett’, who has donated the last 15 years of his time to work as Big hART’s company administrator in the head office in Devonport.

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    Rosetta High contingent: Photo Brett Monaghan

    There was also good news from SBS television as Big hART was named  one of only 17 recipients, out of 500 bids, to be included in SBS Foundation’s ‘donated air-time’ scheme. Big hART’s campaign – “Unusual Stories From Inspiring Communities” – will run between May 2009 and April 2010, profiling the Ngapartji Ngapartji, GOLD, This Is Living and Drive projects.”

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    Rosetta High backstage: Photo Brett Monaghan

    Out and about one night after the show, hanging around Hobart’s lively Salamanca precinct, I spied a gentleman and a gentleman spied me – as we both got out of neighbouring cars. His name is Mike Morris (not to be confused with another with the same name who has spent many years involved in theatre in Australia). Mike is a producer of some note, based in London, connected to artists as prestigious as Pina Bausch and Robert Lepage. Mike also creates massive ‘community-based’ projects around the UK, not unlike the work of Big hART in philosophy. We had not seen each other for seventeen years. Such are one of the pleasures of arts festival attending – bumping into colleagues from long ago.

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    Scott Rankin always fine-tuning: Photo Brett Monaghan

    As the fates would have it, Scott Rankin wandered into the heady environment ,and so I set to introducing these two worthy artistic types, flooding their wine glasses with more at every opportunity – seeing only good in their getting to know a little of each other’s work. I made the mistake, however, of matching them drink for drink; even though my own attention had turned to a delightful conversation with actor Paul Blackwell (who happened to arrive with Morris).

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    Bruce Myles (Morgan) & Lex Marinos (Ron) rehearsing: Photo Brett Monaghan

    The upshot of this Dionysian frenzy was a rather dramatic setback in my hotel room later that night. It was the first time I had got drunk since the now famous ‘incident on the train’. I was fortunately sharing a room with Brett Monaghan, but neither of us had ever encountered a panic attack in the form of hyper-ventilation. I discovered later all my decisions only exacerbated the state I was in – for example, putting myself under a hot shower. At one point, Brett found me almost unconscious on the floor of the bathroom. In my own mind I had fled to Mars – the planet of psychic war – and been utterly defeated.

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    Mr Billy Mercer - wise before his time: Photo Brett Monaghan

    Folk in other rooms were awoken by the racket, including hard-boiled Billy Mercer. Brett mistakenly warded him off unaware that here was an expert in this particular frontier of life-experience. The next day Billy – who appears to have suffered considerable brutality in his own short life – took me aside and explained to me what he knew about panic attacks and how to deal with them.

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    Let there be light: Photo by Brett Monaghan

    This good counsel passed on, I regard as one of the biggest ‘Big hART’ moments for me on the tour. Here, the kid from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ was passing on hard-earned wisdom to a city yuppie old enough to be his father. He taught me the trick of ‘breathing into a paper bag’; and explained how you “can’t change the past…mate.” I glanced at Billy at one point and asked him what he aspired to? “I just want to help other people,” he shrugged. Not one for big speeches, he added, “That’s all.” That’s all? The Big hArt crew working around us at the time, I did wonder where such a crazy idea might have come from….


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  • 17 Apr 2009 /  Other

    Ready Get Set: Glenorchy Greater Hobart

    Three weeks into the Tassie trip my regular photographic partner, Brett Monaghan, turned up in Hobart – staying with us for the short season at the Derwent Entertainment Centre (the DEC); and then onto our visit further south to the Franklin. As he had done in Ernanbella, with Ngapartji Ngapartji, his task was to document the production on and off stage, including – at his request – a set of portraits. Here are just some of the portraits he took in Hobart over the first couple of days on tour with Big hART’s This Is Living.

    Note to readers: so much to report from the Tasmania trip, but also catching up in Sydney with a show a night. Whew…And have been lined up to interview one of the most amazing Australians I have ever met for the National Library - war correspondent for the Times (UK), among many other jobs, Murray Sayle. One of only two writers ever to have a whole issue of the New Yorker devoted to one of his stories (on Hiroshima). Very This is Living: after being parachuted into Vietnam and witnessing live the Bloody Sunday riot in Ireland, bumping into Che Guevara in the South American jungle, etc, he’s now got Parkinson’s Disease and stuck in a nursing home – bored off his brain. Still has all his wits of course. I will be his ‘taper dude’. More soon…..

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    Anne Grigg

    Anne Grigg

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    Kane

    Kane Watts

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    Mike Dixon

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    dixon

    Helen Dixon

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    Lochie

    Locky Rankin

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    Rhyll Cashion

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    Kade Redmond & Scott Rankin

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    Cleone Probert

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    Jordan Latoa

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    Lex Marinos

    Lex Marinos

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    Olivia

    Olivia Kent

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    ghost

    Tony Webb

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    Stephanie Finn

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    Ethan Haywood

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    Keith Wilby

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    Mel Robertson

    Mel Robertson

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    Bruce Myles

    Bruce Myles

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    Bronwyn

    Bronwyn Purvis

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    Billy

    Billy Mercer

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    Emma Wells

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    Nicholas Higgins

    Nicholas Higgins

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    Alwyn Friedersdorff

    Alwyn Friedersdorff

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    Telen Rodwell

    Telen Rodwell

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  • 10 Apr 2009 /  Other
    Latrobe - Rehearsing New Ending: Photo by Hayley

    Latrobe - Rehearsing New Ending: Photo by Hayley Crawford

    It has been a whirlwind of activity since the show opened in Wynyard on 20 March, with director Scott Rankin further fine-tuning the show in advance of every new performance. This included a Saturday matinee being added in Wynyard after the two scheduled performances sold out. As described in my last post, the show was not quite ready on opening night – from a technical point of view. But, as you would know by now, all Big hART projects juggle the goal to offer a ‘valued community experience’ with the creation of a ‘fully aestheticised work of art’. I hardly need to say that the world of theatre as we know it usually divides these two goals down the middle, and indeed keeps them well apart. And it is a core ambition to merge this two value systems that set Big hART apart from every other theatre company in Australia.

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    Latrobe - New Ending in Action: Photo Hayley Crawford

    What I saw at Belvoir Street Theatre in January 2008, when Ngapartji Ngapartji was presented as part of that year’s Sydney Festival program, was a Big hART show at its at most theatrically evolved. But that high point had been eight years in the making. It was only after seeing the show and doing a bit of snooping around online, that I became aware of just how much more there was to to a Big hART project behind the scenes. How do I justify the fact that, at this point, a theatre lover like me had virtually no awareness of the previous 16 years of Big hART’s work? Well, the company started small and has taken many years to come to national attention. It is also a company without a home venue, and structured so horizontally that it operates beneath the detection of conventional media radar.

    Lyric and Bucky - Glenorie: Photo by James Waites

    Lyric & Bucky - Glenorie: Photo by James Waites

    My own personal excuse is that, just as the company began to emerge I, myself, disappeared. :For the eight years since I left the Sydney Morning Herald, I had spent much of my life ‘away from the theatre’ living on 25 acres up at Glenorie near Dural – north-west of Sydney, growing ponies, breeding vegetables, ‘picking and packing’ in a supplies warehouse, and working at a boarding kennel for yuppie puppies. This last was a great job: I used to do weekends when the boss took some time off, no other staff, and I had up to forty dogs on my own. The great achievement was to see if I could settle the lot of them down for an afternoon nap. After a big group play, of course.

    Lyric and Romeo: Photo by James Waites

    Lyric & Romeo (the sire was an Arabian - hence the cute nose) - Glenorie: Photo by James Waites

    Indeed it was not an easy life to abandon, but then again sometimes an abyss opens up between yourself and the person you once loved; and so it’s time to pack the Jeep Cherokee with whatever you can and, tail between your legs, turn up back in town.

    Bucky as a teenager: Photo James Waites

    Bucky as a shy teenager - Hawkesbury Show: Photo by Charles Clark

    Maybe see if there is a chance to hook back into one’s previous life – which in my case has always been writing about ‘show business’ in some shape or form. When nobody in the print media was interested in a story about Big hART taking  Ngapartji Ngapartji back ‘to country’ – the town of Ernabella, 600k’s south-west of Alice Springs (home to many in the cast) - I decided to leap into the 21st century and set up my own dinkylux blog-empire. Thus jameswaites.com was born. Six months down the track and I think me and the site are just starting to get to know each other – strengths and weaknesses.

    Ludwig: Photo by James Waites

    Ludwig - my 70kg failed Harlequin Dane: Photo by James Waites

    The above is a note to some of my readers who have only caught up with this site more recently. If you have not been here from the beginning, perhaps one day you take a look into the Ngapartji Ngapartji folder and see, not only where this online project of mine began; but also witness – mostly through the links to Brett Monaghan’s photos – the amazing creative adventure that was. And still is! In fact, just last week, a trailer-teaser was sent out by Ngapartji Ngapartji Creative Producer, Alex Kelly, to show us how the film doco, Lost For Words, shot on that trip, was coming together. It looks totally awesome! I wrote back to Alex: “I wish you guys would stop making me cry!”

    Ludwig Became a Fashion Model: Queen Victoria Building Season Catalogue

    But Ludwig Became a Famous Fashion Model Instead: Queen Victoria Building Season Catalogue

    Brett and I entered that project at a very late phase of its evolution. With this most recent trip, we dropped into a project – This Is Living – still in its relative infancy: a mere two years in the process so far. To find out more about those two years can I suggest you go to the This is Living website and have a good look around. There is a heap of stuff up there. If you go to the Big hArt’s core site, you can find links to other previous shows or currently in various stages of evolution: including the new biggie – Gold – which is connecting up farming communities along the length of the Murray-Darling basin.

    Bruce Myles on stage at Latrobe: Photo by Hayley Crawford

    Bruce Myles on stage at Latrobe: Photo by Hayley Crawford

    But back to Wynyard: immediately after the audience exited the theatre after the first performance, director Scott Rankin announced there would be a new end to the show the next night. This is the way tour worked from beginning to end: every day there would be another rehearsal of some sort and further fine-tuning. For an experienced observer in theatre-making like myself, it was fascinating to witness Rankin’s capacity for self-criticism, or is it unstoppable creative flow? And conditions were difficult. We would be visiting four towns across Tasmania, performing 12 times in seventeen days to over 2,000 people. Mostly in small-town community halls. This meant not only bumping-in and out of four entirely different venues, travel time, bedding into new digs; but also linking in with new ‘community’ cast members in each town.

    Lex Marinos (Ron) with Witnesses (foreground): Photo by Amelia Dearnley

    Lex Marinos (Ron) with 'Witnesses' Mike Dixon and Alwyn Friedersdorff (foreground) at Latrobe: Photo by Amelia Dearnley

    As mentioned in a previous post, the on-stage company comprised of three professional actors (Anne Grigg, Lex Marinos and Bruce Myles). We took four of the Wynyard community ‘seniors’ with us on tour to work with the newbies in each town; just as we took a small contingent of the Wynyard skaters to mix it with each new ‘youth’ group.

    Choreographer Kelly Alexander with two Latrobe 'Witnesses, Elizabeth and John Skinner: Photo by Hayley Crawford

    This meant that bumping in not only included re-erecting the set and re-lighting the show, hooking up all the audio etc; it also meant fresh rehearsals with the new ‘community’ performers. They were not entirely unprepared: senior production people, Chris Mead (Associate Director/Chorus Coordinator), Kelly Alexander (Choreographer), Stephanie Finn and Kirsty Grierson (Community Producers) had been working with these groups over previous months. This team was lead from the beginning (before the beginning!) by This is Living‘s Creative Producer, Sophia Marinos, who turned out on the tour to be one of the most capable and fun professionals I have ever worked with in my life.

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    This is Living's Creative Producer Sophia Marinos: Photo by Brett Monaghan

    None of the new groups had yet experienced a tech run or dress with the full cast, and we might have only 24 hours before opening night. It was exhausting for everyone, especially the touring seniors, ‘the Wynyard Four’, and the three professionals. Astoundingly, spirits remained high and goodwill always the predominant vibe, no matter the fatigue or pressure.

    Skating at Latrobe: Photo by Hayley Crawford

    Skating at Latrobe: Photo by Hayley Crawford

    The towns we toured after Wynyard were Latrobe, not a great distance to the east on the north coast; then to Glenorchy (Greater Hobart), and finally south to Huonville/Franklin in the pretty Huon Valley. Not only did we have different venues and cast members in each town, for short seasons of two or three performances; but also changes to the script. Local touches were always added: Here’s a little from the opening song by the Dunaways:

    The Dunaways: Photo by Brett Monaghan

    The Dunaways: Photo by Brett Monaghan

    Southwesterly (prelude)

    Houses cling to hillsides. Watching over shipping lanes
    Like a thousand widow’s walks, southwesterly, always the same….

    Chorus (Wynyard):
    The Inglis and the Emu, The Forth at Devil’s Gate
    Always heading northward, To escape into the strait

    Chorus (Latrobe):
    The Mersey and the Leven, The Forth at Devil’s Gate
    Always heading northward, To escape into the strait

    Chorus (Franklin):
    The Picton and the Huon, The springs at Hasting’s Caves
    Always heading southward to escape into the bay

    The second and third shows at Wynyard were more successful technically as light, sound and audiovisual components settled in to place. And then there was the new ending. Initially, the three groups of actors – the three professionals, seniors and skaters – remained in their segregated worlds, even as bows were taken. But the drama cried out for union – in a way that reflected the experience of the company in rehearsal and about to go on tour. So Scott’s new ending involved a classic Big hART manouvre of the ‘Witnesses’ inviting audience members to dance with them, lights up on the skaters up back also slow dancing. And then a great shwhoosh forward as all the kids from up the back – about 20 in all – came running down to join the main cast and seniors in a massive moshpit shakedown. As per photographs at top of story.

    Just as we had the community choir in Wynyard, in Latrobe we had the local brass band, the Latrobe Federal Band, the oldest continuously surviving brass band in Australia.

    Latrobe Federal Band: Photo Hayley Crawford

    Latrobe Federal Band: Photo Hayley Crawford

    I started my own project in Wynyard, under Scott Rankin’s suggestion, called ‘Everyone’s a Critic’, and I’ll say more about that another time. The Wynyard group included locals aged 16 to early 80. The Latrobe group focused on a senior high drama class with a few adults from the local community mixed in. Below is a picture of the Latrobe class, a very smart and fun group of Year 12 from Don Academy (Devonport), before we went in to see the show. Included in the photo, third from left, is Mary Kille who performed as a ‘Witness’ in the Wynyard version.

    "Everyone's A Critic' in Latrobe, Don Academy Drama Teacher Keren Smithies (second row centre): Photo HayleyCrawford

    Mary arrived at the Latrobe class with a poem she had written in response to her experience as a performer. It is dedicated to Anne Grigg, who plays one of the lead roles; and it describes how Mary once missed her cue, so transfixed was she on Anne’s performance.

    Actor and Poet - Anne Grigg and Mary Kill: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    Actor and Poet - Anne Grigg and Mary Kille: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    I don’t know what you think, but when Mary read the poem to the class – in a voice flooded with humility and trembling grace - we were awestruck. The water images refer to the lines Anne’s character was delivering at the time. If this is what is born of a Big hART project, then Scott Rankin and his people must be doing something right.

    MISSED CUE

    I was transfixed by transient beauty,

    as you descended that extraordinary stage,

    and all your words and all your song

    flowed like the river

    where once you had swam

    naked and glistening as a fish,

    secretive,

    in dark water.

    You spoke and sang of love and loss,

    and yearning for the joy you’d known,

    which now was gone for ever.

    And I, a novice, bit-part player wept,

    as those pedestrian, banal, intruding words

    which I was meant to speak,

    died in my throat;

    and the guitarist, with his thrumming chords,

    covered my lapse.

    ‘twixt audience and actor,

    as from a spangled dew-dropped spider’s web,

    the thread shone,

    jewelled

    and unbroken.

    Mary Kille

    March 2009

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  • 07 Apr 2009 /  Other
    Ms Amerilia Dearnley from the Gold Coast who photographed for Big hART

    Ms Amelia Dearnley from the Gold Coast who photographed for Big hART: This Photo by Brett Monaghan

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  • 07 Apr 2009 /  Other

    I am back in Sydney as of Jetstar late last night, and will spend the next couple of weeks catching up on documentation of the Big hART This Is Living premiere Tasmania tour. So much happened, so many great stories to share. And with photographer Brett Monaghan arriving a week or so back – lots of gr8 new pix!

    This is my personal favourite shot. Me and Pub Bouncer! aka Bronco or Blue Dog. I think he is at least 17 years old. I don’t know what it is about me and dogs but we just get on real good! Bronco keeps a fierce eye out for ‘behaviour’ issues at the Lady Franklin Hotel, located next door to the beautiful Palais Theatre, our last venue for the tour. The men in this area are not exactly soft and they enjoy a schooner or three. Any fights break out and Pub Bouncer limps over and looks sadly at the dudes with the wisdom of age and they stop. It works every time.

    Me and Pub Bouncer - Franklin Tasmania: Photo by Brett Monaghan


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  • 02 Apr 2009 /  News

    Hiya readers,

    never had to say sorry before 4 neglecting you – it’s been full-on and amazing. Just finished in Hobart and rest of team has moved on. I am staying back for one more day – so have been upgraded to the best room in this lovely old hotel – the Astor. Below a scene from the theatre office in Latrobe.

    xxx

    Me Being Butch: Photo by Amelia Dearnley

    Have just had oysters and Tassie beer down by the water – listened to some cute feral buskers doing po-mo bluegrass on the way home – now the big bed calls me! LOL – James

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  • 25 Mar 2009 /  Other

    I have promised my magnificent hosting family, Pam and Neal Rodwell, ‘not to tell anyone’ on the Mainland how wonderful this little north-west coast Tasmanian town of ‘W’ is: pretty without being dinky, a stunning natural setting, friendly happy citizens of all ages, who almost always say hi to you when strolling around town. After the riotous experience of the Wynyard (oops – I am damn hopeless at secrets) Agricultural Show more than a week back, it has been foot-to-the-pedal in getting Big hART’s new show, This Is Living, ready for opening night.

    Breakfast of Champions: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    Essentially, this has included all that involves a bumping into what is a classic Aussie country-town ‘heyday’ auditorium. The Old Wynyard Theatre (1926) is owned by the new proprietors of the adjacent Wharf Hotel, who have recently restored both properties with great love and attention to detail.

    Setting Up the Half-Pipe: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    I owe the owners of the pub no favours, so this is an honest pitch when I say anyone touring a show around Tasmania should think about taking advantage of this lovely venue – and the keen local community who packed the short debut season of This is Living to the rafters.

    Love is in the Air? - David Pendlebury, co-owner of the Wharf Hotel with Annie: Photo by James Waites

    Tech runs involved bringing together the three core groups of performers: the professional leads (Anne Grigg, Lex Marinos and Bruce Myles), the Wynyard ‘Witnesses’ (the older-age community component), and the young (skaters and other youth).

    Three's a Crowd: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    Big hART regular, Peter Dixon, of pumpkin-growing fame (see earlier post) lives right next door to the theatre. His sheds, yard and even his house is a treasure-trove of abandoned engines and other unidentifiable mechanical wotnots from times past, some restored – many still awaiting his attention. I think, these days, Peter makes corrugated-iron water tanks for a living; but he has been involved in many shows.

    xxxxxx

    Steptoe's Aussie Cousin - Peter Dixon: Photo by Sophia Marinos

    The ultimate Mr Fixit, Peter (aka Captain Caravan) was responsible for the workability of the convoy of ancient mobile homes engaged in Big hART’s production, Drive-In Holiday, which toured the Tasmania extensively as part of the 2007 Ten Days on the Island festival. Apparently every vehicle got home without succumbing to an unsolvable technical hitch. Peter has stepped up in this production to an ‘acting’ role, as one of the Wynyard ‘group of four’ Witnesses who will tour with the show.

    Bearing Witness: Helen Dixon & Terry Smith with Anne Grigg: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    Proximity and suitable equipment led to Peter’s yard and shed being used for the heavy-duty prop-making which included a lot of welding and assembly by other sometimes more ingenious means. Ben Lambert, who was on the Ngapartji Ngapartji tour to Ernabella has been involved in most of this work.

    Ben Lambert

    Big hART's Ben 'Pepper' Lambert: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    While Wynyard Witnesses settled into their evocatively ‘ghostly’ outfits, screen-printed with images of old newspaper clippings (costume designer Zoe Churchill), the hard yakka of putting up lights and wiring audio-visual equipment together – and then making it all WORK! – began to eat into days and long into evenings.

    Beige is the New Black - Zoe Churchill's Witness costumes: Photo by Neal Rodwell

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    Sophia Marinos and Zoe Churchill: Photo By Emilia Dearnley

    Fashion Victims - Sophia Marinos and Zoe Churchill: Photo By Amelia Dearnley

    Meanwhile, a few days prior to opening night a massive half-pipe was assembled outside the theatre. There was to be a display of skater skills for audiences on the way in to see the show; but from the time the tube was up, it became a town youth hotspot.

    Street Action - The Skater Posse: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    I even had it explained to me just how a skateboard rises with the feet in advance of jumping a gutter or skidding along a rail: it would take a truly ‘beautiful mind’ to mathematically calculate the gravity-defying physics of these seemingly ‘mainstream’ skater feats.

    Artful Dodger - Big hART Junior Techie, George Nicholas: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    A number of young locals, who have worked on previous Big hART shows have lalso joined the production team including George Nicholas who worked on Love Zombies, taking over the lighting desk after Nicholas Higgins had ot leave the show early.

    Double Trouble - Big hART bloggist with sidekick Amelia Dearnley: Photo by Sophia Marinos

    Meanwhile, my own personal duties began to kick in. Scott Rankin had asked me down to Tasmania to work on a program, typical of his lateral thinking, called ‘Everyone’s a Critic’, designed to encourage more vigorous critical thinking among local audiences. In Wynyard, this would begin with a troupe of eleven enthusiasts, ranging in age from 16 to 81!!

    Illuminating the Past - Wynyard Witness Mike Dixon: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    Rees Campbell
    A wooden disk for a stage, a live band and a row of directors’ desks lined with several laptops. The old-fashioned filament globes symbolise beautifully the era of still photography and contrast dramatically with the digital projection of live skateboarding.  But the question echoing from the technical run is whether the multi-media technologies are complimentary or conflicting?

    Telen in control: Photo by Sophia Marinos

    Teen Control - Big hART's Telen Rodwell: Photo by Sophia Marinos

    I will go into this project a little more next time: suffice it to say, it is a brave director who lets lose a bunch of potential brutalisers and naysayers on a new work. On any work! I will also let you know when a meaningful amount of this work has been posted onto the This Is Living website.

    Dunaways' Sounds of Silence: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    Dillon Roberts
    Music ensemble, the Dunaways, exceeded my expectations in creating soulful melodies inspired by 60’s pop and folk music.  And so I ask the question: does the music suit the show and vice versa? The answer is an emphatic – amazingly! For those of you attending, all I can say is be prepared to be impressed. Big hART has once again put on ‘the big show!’

    Idol Rejects - Skater Kade Redmond & "Everyone's a Critic' Dillon Roberts: Photo by James Waites

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    Local Yokels - Big hART's Bronwyn Purvis & Top Tradie Jesse Randall: Photo by James Waites

    Local newspaper, The Advocate, took an interest in our little ‘criticism’ project: and so after opening night a full page was devoted to our activities, including some nifty paragraphs from some of the participants. They could not be full reviews, as the writers had to work from what was to be a dress rehearsal, but turned out to be a tortuous tech run. Make that crawl! My writers were still impressed.

    Family on Tour - Mum & Dad: Photo by Sophia Marinos

    Freda Cook
    The new stage attracts the eye like a full moon tilted in the sky, surrounded with many stars.  Around the stage ghosts are seen drifting and observing the progress of the world.  Moving at speed, boys on skateboards can be compared to life with all its ups and downs.

    One of the appealing characteristics of any Big hART production these days is the accumulation of workers who are capable of putting their egos in their pockets and simply getting on with the – usually massive – job that needs to be done on minimal budgets and emasculating time frames. This was noticeable out in the desert with Ngapartji Ngapartji and again this time on getting up This is Living.

    Inter-Generational - Ginger Rankin and Neal Rodwell: Courtesy of Neal Rodwell

    Part of the luxury for me on this tour so far has been the above-mentioned accommodation. I have been guested by the Rodwells, who have been friends with Scott Rankin pretty much since his arrival in Burnie in the early 1980s to work with so-called ‘street kids’. Neal, already engaged in schemes assisting the disabled, saw a like-minded comrade in Scott Rankin; and their lives and ideals have remained intertwined for the past thirty years.

    ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    In fact, Neal and his wife Pam attended Scott’s first-ever show in Burnie, a one-person musical entertainment at the then popular and very alternative venue called The Electric Jug. Neal says, even back then, Scott revealed a fascination with multi-layered themes. Apparently as the story unfolded, and between songs, Scott would disrobe to reveal a new character in a different costume underneath.

    OO7 - Acclaimed Advocate Photographer Don Carter: Photo by James Waites

    Not surprisingly, a bevy of fresh local faces turned up to be part of the opening night support team. Including no less a figure than Don Carter, retired Advocate photographer, on ushering duties, whose life story shares quite a few similarities with that of Morgan, the character played by Bruce Myles. The script refers to specifically photos of sporting highlights, debutante balls and a visit by the Queen.

    : One Kick Two Kick – Photo courtesy of The Advocate

    And just as the skaters kicked into their truly spectacular pre-show display our in the street, a section of the sidewalk was populated by the voices of the Wynyard Chorale, with appropriate bodies attached – big men to the bass voices etc.

    'You'll Never Sing Alone' - The Wynyard Chorale: Photo by James Waites

    The street outside the theatre began to fill with audiences, and various volunteer staff working with everyhting from front of house to a fundraiser stall.

    Lady Luck - Barbara King and Big hART's Stephanie Finn: Photo by Sophia Marinos

    Characteristic of the production’s core theme, young and old took it in turn to impress the milling crowd. In good time the audience was called into the theatre, and it wasn’t long before the Dunaways opened the show with just a hint of the exquisite musical backdrop they had created over recent months.

    Skater Dudettes - Witnesses Alwyn Friederdorff and Helen Dixon mucking up with the Skaters: Photo by Sophia Marinos

    To be honest, the show was somewhat behind schedule on several technical fronts: and opening night was about as close to a slip on a banana peel as you could get. To mix metaphors: it was a breach birth, the child was born with ugg boots on and an umbilical cord around its neck, red-faced as a nun caught out with a surfie in the back of a panel van, laughing and crying in equal amounts. But it was ALIVE! And the many parents involved were beyond joyful. Out the front, workers from different Big hART shows got together to say hi to each other.

    Hard Core Big hART - Scott Rankin and Michelle Kotevski: Photo James Waites

    Show over, technical people had to be reconstructed back into humanoid shapes from the pools of sweat they had been reduced to through the previous two-and-a-half hours. The healing powers of Tasmanian beer cannot be under-estimated. Core cast members could remember little of the experience.

    Okay - So Three Isn't a Crowd After All: Photo Neal Rodwell

    Witnesses were thrilled to at last have participated in a full run in the presence of a life audience – and experienced the resultant the buzz . And the kids behind the scrim, whose job it was to occasionally burst into skater action or wild mosh-pit moves, against a backdrop of fleeting moving images, were more proud of the fact that for most of the evening they had been able to sit still out the back there and not talk or move.

    And in the End there was Skating: Photo by Neal Rodwell

    Okay, so there was a bit of mucking up, but by modern-day ‘attention deficit’ standards the achievement for most was akin to surviving alone in a Himalayan cave and living on melted snow for a several years.

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  • 21 Mar 2009 /  Other

    This is my debut exhibition of ‘art’ photography! Watch out William Yang, Mario Testino and Annie Lieberwitz, I am hot on your heels.  All these pix were taken with a Box Brownie whilst blindfolded – aimed to capture and celebrate the ‘amateur’ ethos of the small-town agricultural show in the very texture of the images. My specialty at the moment appears to be tending towards flower arrangements and cows.

    Just to let you all know that we have been flat-chat since my last post. Big hART’s This is Living debuted last night at the Wharf Theatre at Wynyard to a packed house, as part of the 2009 Ten Days on the Island Festival. But more of that soon. I have also completed my first series of “Everyone’s A Critic’ classes, which comprised a group of eleven locals, aged between 16 to 84. Again I’ll report back soon on that too. For now, just to let you know we had a ball and six of the group’s short-version reviews, along with one from me, have been published in a special feature in today’s Advocate newspaper.

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    My best Shot!

    My Best Shot!

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    Sorry I missed the chook pavilion!

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